In anticipation of the upcoming Sex Week at Bates, The Student interviewed Jennifer Wiessner, a local sex therapist. Wiessner is a clinical social worker, certified sex therapist, sex educator, workshop creator, and sexual health innovator in Maine; also important to note is that she is one of only five sex therapists in the state of Maine, and held the distinction of being the sole female certified sex therapist at the time of her certification. She will be holding a session during Sex Week (March 12th, 12-1 pm, Commons 221/222) to discuss sex positivity and sexual communication. According to a summary of her presentation, there will be interactive opportunities during the session and space to work in groups to learn how to better communicate needs, wants, and limits. Below are responses to questions The Student asked, ranging from why she became a sex therapist to how to demystify the female orgasm.
Why did you become a sex therapist? What path led you to this profession?
I’d love to say it came from some rebellious angst growing up going to Catholic school, but it wasn’t, it was something frankly much cooler. I believe I was truly “called” to this work.
After living in Maine about 2 years, I had an epiphany. A colleague invited me to attend a workshop about the intersection of spirituality and sexuality led by renowned sex therapist Gina Ogden. I was just blown away at the workshop. I didn’t know what’s happening for me; I thought I was getting the flu or something, but I was raising my hand anytime Gina needed an example or assistant. Something was happening—and I didn’t understand it—but I knew I was in love with everything she was saying. Later, one of the participants introduced himself as the only certified sex therapist in Maine and he said to me, “I am 67 years old. Someday, I’ll retire, and all my knowledge will go with me. Why don’t you take over for me?” I shook his hand not knowing what it all meant.
I took on the challenge. By 2012, after 3.5 years of studying and supervision and coursework, with a toddler and a baby at home, I was certified as a sex therapist with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and had launched a private practice for couples and individuals. The idea for my popular Raising Sexually Healthy Children workshops was born after several years of clients sitting on my sofa and working through the issues that were impacting their sex lives—mostly shame. My belief was, if we start raising children who are educated by their parents about their bodies, consent, permission, and pleasure, we could raise a whole generation of children who don’t need to live with shame about their bodies and know that it is ok to enjoy them and know how to keep them healthy.
Can you describe in your own words what being a sex therapist means?
For me and how I work, being a sex therapist is being a safe haven for people to share their concerns, difficulties, struggles and hopes for their sexual selves. This means also being a sexuality educator in my private practice as well as in workshops for parents, in institutions with medical providers, students and youth. I could talk all day about sexual health, sexuality and how we can have healthier more pleasurable lives!
What are the weirdest kinks you’ve heard of?
Although I wouldn’t want to judge anyone’s kink as weird (don’t yuck someone’s yum)…whatever gets you hot and doesn’t hurt anyone else is pretty much fair game…my two favorites that bring a smile to my face is cake farts and furtling…look that up!
Do you have any advice on demystifying the female orgasm?
Why would I want to do that? Mysteries are amazing and then they would be less fun! Seriously though, I think we need less demystifying and more education for female orgasm. There would be less mystery if we actually taught female-identified folx about their bodies before their first partner has to instruct them. Sex Ed for kids is still in the dark ages and we don’t talk about pleasure. In one study, 30% of college-aged women couldn’t locate the clitoris. I’ve been on a crusade to change that for years. It is part of what I teach in my co-created annual event Girls on Fire breakout called The Anatomy of Pleasure.
Do you have any tips for college students looking to hook up/lose their virginity but are nervous about it?
First, I hope we can banish forever the “lose virginity” phrase. Who says we are losing something? And if we are, maybe not doing it at that moment might be the best course. This phrase is steeped in religious undertones, focuses on heteronormative penetration which isn’t close to a full representation of what “sex” is and turns sex into an object to take or steal. My advice would be to focus on thinking about what you want, what your body wants and practice communicating about it. Hookups can be transactional, and you have to ask yourself what you really want out of it. Courage (and pleasure) is in having sober and enthusiastic sexual experiences.
What are your thoughts on having sex on the first date?
My thoughts don’t matter but the person’s thoughts thinking about this do. Making sure the sex you are embarking on is what you want, it respects your partner, and both are on the same page…then enjoy!
Is there anything else you would want your college self to know?
Geez, I didn’t know anything, so I wish I had me back then! Maybe I’d like my college self to know that communicating about what I like and want is sexy and that no one ever died of embarrassment talking about these topics!